Dog sparks North Carolina baseball’s rally past Michigan in NCAAs – Detroit Free Press
Michigan closer Jackson Lamb talks about rebounding from the 2017 Big Ten tournament setback; Video by Mark Snyder, DFP.
CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – Baseball old-timers like to say one of the sport’s charms is you’re likely to see something happen you never saw before in a game.
That axiom was validated in the NCAA Chapel Hill Regional when North Carolina’s “rally dog” ran onto the field to seemingly spark three runs and overcome a 1-0 deficit.
UNC rode the interruption to an 8-1 victory Saturday afternoon at Boshamer Stadium.
Michigan starter Michael Hendrickson was cruising on a one-hitter through four innings, when suddenly the junior left-hander couldn’t find the plate after the bizarre incident in the fifth. Was it a distraction?
“No,” Michigan head coach Erik Bakich said through a sardonic smile, “but I’m sure you’ll want to say it was.”
Third-seeded Michigan’s loss to top-seeded North Carolina ended the Wolverines’ season with a 0-2 record in the double-elimination regional. The Tar Heels (48-13), upset in its opener by unranked Davidson, remain alive as the nation’s No. 2-ranked team.
Michigan (42-17) scored first for the second straight day, this time on a second-inning home run by Drew Lugbauer.
But in the fifth with a runner on first that Hendrickson had hit with a pitch, a dog wearing a powder blue harness with UNC initials burst from the Tar Heels’ dugout.
Remington is a 2-year-old golden retriever athletic trainer Terri Jo Rucincski uses as a training assistant. His purpose is therapy for players that feel isolated while recovering from surgery.
Initially, Hendrickson seemed as amused as the crowd cheered when the dog sprinted to the third-base line, before he quickly turned back to the dugout.
When play resumed, a fielder’s choice resulted in the second out. Hendrickson hit the next batter and walked two more on eight pitches to bring home the tying run.
Pitching coach Sean Kenny visited the mound, but Hendrickson remained in the game.
“If there is one guy you know can pitch you of it, you trust him to do that,” Bakich said. “He’s been very good for us, especially as of late. That’s why we moved him up to the second starter role.”
UNC second baseman Ashton McGee, a .332 hitter and the Atlantic Coast Conference Freshman of the Year, stroked a two-strike single to leftfield for two runs.
The Tar Heels finished with eight runs on eight hits, drew nine and were hit by pitches three times.
U-M, the Big Ten’s regular season runner-up, saw its season end on a four-game losing streak. The Wolverines dropped two in the Big Ten tournament and two NCAA Regional games.
“This one stings the most of the five years the staff has been here,” Bakich said. “The kids we have on the team — guys like (All-Big Ten shortstop Michael Brdar) and the upperclassmen — made it so much fun. You never want it to end when you’re having fun.”
North Carolina bounced back from losing a home regional opener for the first time in the eight that the Tar Heels have hosted since 1983. Freshman pitcher Luca Dalatri (7-3) struck out six and gave up five hits through 7 1/3 innings.
“I told them don’t look at this as an elimination game; that’s a negative term,” Tar Heels coach Mike Fox said. “It’s hard to hide the fact, but these kids wanted to do well. They wanted to win in front of their home crowd. I think we’ll be OK now that we’ve got that first NCAA win.”